A Few Tips For Visiting Utah And Arizona
We had an amazing 4 weeks travelling through Utah and Arizona. Even though we were pretty meticulous about planning, we discovered a few tips for visiting Utah and Arizona that may help to plan your visit.
Be prepared for high altitude and temperature swings. Plan your accommodations and activities well in advance. Enjoy the hikes and get outfitted properly. But you can enjoy so much even if you don’t hike. Plan for the best. But anticipate and be prepared for troubles too. We planned our tourist site visits away from busy times. But also included some down time. Just a few of the things we wanted to share.
In no particular order ….
1) Be Prepared For The Weather
We visited Utah and Arizona in the fall. When we looked at the weather projection before we packed, we expected wide swings in temperature from day to night. And as we moved from Salt Lake City to our final stay in Tucson. We packed for layering.
But historical weather predictions were not so reliable with global warming messing with Mother Nature. The heat wave for the first two weeks of our visit was not anticipated. So we did laundry more than anticipated. But we also enjoyed the outdoor pools!
But if we visited in the summer, we would be prepared to go through a lot of sweaty clothes. And if we visited in the winter, layering would not be enough. We would pack our Canadian winter clothes!
Check out the weather before you travel. But be prepared for surprises because historical weather may not be reliable. Just one of our tips for visiting Utah and Arizona.
2) Understand How Altitude Can Affect You
When we planned to visit Machu Picchu, we read all about altitude sickness and how to deal with it. We knew we would be travelling in the National Parks in Utah and expected to pass through higher altitudes. But we did not expect to be at higher altitudes for most of our trip.
We landed in Salt Lake City and the altitude was almost 4000’ above sea level (ASL). I did not realize it until I wondered why I still had headaches and weariness a few days after we arrived. During our travels, we hit over 10,000 feet in altitude and stayed there for most of a day. And the lowest altitude in the spots we stayed was at the end in Tucson (over 2,000 feet).
At home in Toronto, we live on Lake Ontario and the altitude is just over sea level. So the elevation in Utah and Arizona took a little time to get used to.
Headaches eventually settled down with some time and a little help from ibuprofen. We loved when we had a hot tub on the property to ease aches and pains. And we paced ourselves when we were physically active. I even added an altitude app to my smart phone to help when we planned activities.
Make sure you are prepared for higher altitudes. One of the things to think about when you visit Utah and Arizona.
3) Commit To Some Plans Well In Advance of Your Visit
We had a very busy travel year in 2019. We often did just-in-time trip planning. And sometimes this meant we missed things we wanted to do.
On much of our travel in 2019, we continued to build loyalty points and status. So we often planned to stay in Marriott Bonvoy properties. On much of our visit to Utah and Arizona, we often stayed in average properties usually with some kind of small kitchen.
But on our visit to the Utah National Parks, we really wanted to stay inside the parks. We wanted those early morning and sunset experiences. Even though we booked our accommodations 4 weeks before we travelled, we did not get to stay in accommodations inside either Bryce or Zion parks.
We miscalculated how busy Arizona was in October. Even though we traveled off season and mid-week, this did not help in a few cases. So we missed a few of the activities we really wanted to do.
We found only a small number of tour operators during our stay in Page, Arizona and we missed a visit to Antelope Canyon. On our stay in Sedona, we wanted to see the Sedona Valley at sunrise from a hot air balloon. But everything was booked for the full 4 days we were there.
Luckily we were able to book other activities to satisfy our need for adventure. In Moab, Utah we went off-road for an amazing Jeep adventure. We rented a fast speed boat and explored Navajo Canyon in Page. And had the most amazing helicopter tour over the Sedona Valley.
It was always a risk to book non-refundable accommodations. And weather and changing plans made committing to a date for adventures a bit challenging. But we wished we planned a few things a bit earlier.
4) Buy A National Park Pass
We learned on our first visit to the National Parks that the break even point for a National Park Pass is just over 2 visits. An annual National Park Pass was $80. But most parks charged a one-time fee of between $30 and $40.
We visited Arches National Park on the anniversary day when it was free for everyone. You may be able to schedule your park visits around free days and maybe not have to buy an annual pass.
But we used our National Park Pass for the other 4 Utah National Parks (Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion). Had we stopped there, we saved money. But we also used our pass at Glen Canyon National Park for two visits on our stay in Page, Arizona. We got into the Montezuma Castle National Monument with our pass. And we used our pass and visited the Seguaro National Park in Tucson.
The National Park Pass was not valid in several of the State Parks we visited. But we happily paid for day entry for amazing treats in Dead Horse State Park ($20) and Goblins State Park ($15) in Utah. And paid the $10 parking fee at Horseshoe Bend in Page, even though this was technically in the Glen Canyon National Park.
If you plan to visit many National Parks on one visit or several over a year, it makes great financial sense to get an annual National Park Pass. Just one of the smart tips for visiting Utah and Arizona.
5) Time Your Visits To Tourist Spots
We soon learned that every tourist spot was much busier than we expected.
Some days we planned our visits to catch the perfect photography light. Sunrise was the perfect time to catch hot air balloons over the Sedona Valley. Sunset from the Dobbins Lookout in Phoenix and over the cactus at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain were magical times.
As it approached noon and early afternoon, we often found the tourist spots busy. Tourists on vacation often started their days later. And the tour buses from Vegas needed a few hours of travel time before they arrived. We generally avoided all tourist spots between 11:00am and 3:00pm.
When we timed our visit to tourist spots, we were able to enjoy our visit more. And didn’t watch the crazy people who pushed the limit for selfie photos. This is a tip for visiting sights in Utah and Arizona that we tried not to break.
6) To Hike Or Not To Hike
Hiking means different things to different people. Adventurous and physically fit people are not hiking until it is a long and challenging climb. For us, hiking means we are moving off of walking paths for longer times and pushing ourselves just a little. On our travels to Utah and Arizona, we did a fair amount of our kind of hiking.
Since we knew we would be hiking, we went prepared. We own good hiking boots and they were our travel shoes. Packing for 4 weeks left no room for hiking boots in the suitcase.
We even purchased good hiking poles for this trip. Our poles are lightweight and collapse into 3 parts. This meant they were easy to pack and light to carry. All good reasons why we carried them with us most of the time when we went out.
I was a bit worried about looking like a frail old person with my hiking poles. But my hiking poles gave me the stability and confidence to actually move faster. And I attempted many walks up rocky paths that before might have challenged me. When I looked around at the National Parks, I was certainly not the only one with walking poles.
Some people told me they would not visit the National Parks because they didn’t hike. While we hiked some on our visits, there were also so many amazing sights visible from observation points in the National Parks. We chose not to hike in some parks. And we still saw some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable!
Whether you “hike” or just walk on paths, there was so much to see when we visited Utah and Arizona. I hope this tip helps you to plan your trip.
7) Plan For the Best But Anticipate Issues
Even the best laid plans can encounter problems. We rented an SUV for our travels in Utah and Arizona. We knew were planned to visit places where the roads might be rough. And we wanted a vehicle that could take the bumps and dips. But even with an SUV, when we really went off-road, we took a jeep tour to climb rocks in Moab, Utah.
Our SUV survived all of our visits to the national and state parks. But a stone chip driving on the highway resulted in a large crack in the windshield. Luckily we had car insurance through our credit card. And a replacement SUV was quickly arranged after discussions with American Express and Hertz. We lost a day of our vacation as we swapped vehicles. But it was not a costly accident.
Our health insurance covered us on this trip because it was less than 40 days. But when we travel for longer, we never leave home without top-up health insurance. We have luckily never had a major health emergency. But we once filed a claim for $500 to cover the outrageous cost of one inhaler on a cruise ship.
Insurance often feels like gambling. But insurance added a level of comfort and brought ease of resolution when we travelled. Ignore this tip for visiting Utah and Arizona if you are a gambler.
8) Plan For Some Downtime
It is always tempting to schedule every minute of a vacation. Especially if you still work and have few days off. At this point in our life, we can travel for longer periods and travel slower. But on many trips, we still crammed every day full.
But we learned that we needed to plan some downtime into our vacation schedules. Sometimes it was a spa day. Often we planned a pampering stay at the end of our travels. There were days when David went off for a few hours and I could just read and do nothing.
We planned to be very busy on our tour of the Utah National Parks and into northern Arizona. But we then planned to slow down when we headed to Scottsdale and Tucson. We stayed in great pampering resorts. And there were a lot of those to choose from in Arizona! But while we did laze about, we also did day trips to explore Arizona.
The downtime helped ensure we did not arrive home needing a vacation from our vacation. The one of the tips for travelling we are trying to get better at.
9) You Won’t Need To Photoshop Your Pictures
This last tip for visiting Utah and Arizona is very specific to this trip. Over the 4 week period, we shot so many clear sky pictures. And the blue sky was so much bluer than we imagined. So many of the pictures looked like they had been photoshopped.
But we had amazing weather. When we saw a cloud in the sky, we were quite amused. We were generally out of bigger cities. And the air was cleaner. And the higher altitude seemed to make the sky an amazing shade of blue.
If the day sky was vivid blue, the night sky was pitch black in many places we visited. Many spots in Utah and Arizona have committed to reducing night light pollution. Many are committed to becoming “Dark Sky Communities”. Star gazing was amazing. And we even caught sight of the Hunter’s Moon rising on several night photography jaunts. But it did make the streets at night dark a maybe a little less safe.
When we visited Utah and Arizona, we had no trouble taking the most amazing pictures with stunning blue skies.
Things To Think About When Visiting Utah And Arizona
When you read our blog posts about our travels in Utah and Arizona, you will see that we loved this fall trip. There was so much to see and do. We moved from amazing sight to amazing sight.
We learned a few tips about visiting Utah and Arizona that should help as you plan your travels. Many of these may be generic travel planning tips. But many have a unique twist for this part of the U.S.
Do you have other tips for visiting Utah and Arizona? What was the most surprising one we shared?
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